Close Relative Eligibility Provisions under the Agricultural Holdings Act 1986

Posted by LindaStenner on August 23, 2021

Close Relative Eligibility Provisions under the Agricultural Holdings Act 1986

August 23, 2021 at 3:13 PM

Under the provisions of the Agricultural Holdings Act 1986, Part IV of the Act entitles certain close relatives of tenant farmers, whose tenancies are protected by the AHA 1986 to obtain by way of statutory succession a new protected tenancy of the holding on the death or retirement of the original tenant.

The definition of a close relative is narrow and therefore it is highly important to understand who may qualify when planning for a succession. The close relationship test must have been established by the date of death of the original tenant.

Section 35(2) of the AHA 1986 provides that only the following persons satisfy the close relationship test:

a)       The wife or husband (including a civil partner) of the deceased tenant (spouse);

b)       The brother or sister of the deceased (sibling);

c)       A child of the deceased (child); or

d)       Any person not within the above, who in the case of any marriage or civil partnership to which the deceased was at any time a party   was treated by the deceased as a child of the family in relation to that marriage or civil partnership (treated child).

It should be noted that the above definition does not allow for grandchildren, nephews and nieces or children in law, which is often a common misunderstanding experienced.

In the case of joint tenants, for example where two brothers are the joint tenants one with eligible children and one with no children. The eligible children will only satisfy the test for succession on death if their uncle predeceases their father. It would therefore be prudent to consider an application for succession on retirement in this case.

A common problem experienced is when a tenancy is vested with a grandparent and the parent predeceases the grandparent. The grandchild is then barred from making an application for succession to the tenancy from the grandparent as it is not possible to skip a generation.

Section 81 and Schedule 8 of the Civil Partnership Act 2004 amended the AHA 1986 to enable civil partners to fall within the definition of a close relative.

The “treated child” scenario has given rise to a number of difficulties. In Williams v Lady Douglas the Tribunal accepted a distant cousin and in Ashby v Holiday  a stepson who had lived with the deceased tenant and his wife as a member of the family was accepted.

The close relative test is one of the initial points studied when considering the likely outcome of a succession case. If there is a possibility that the eligibility of an applicant could be compromised due to a change in circumstances or order of death, it is therefore prudent to plan for this scenario to avoid becoming ineligible.

For further advice on succession planning please feel free to contact Kathryn Williams at Davis Meade Property Consultants Ltd. kathrynwilliams@dmpcuk.com  

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